Leadership is without question the favorite topic of non-technical workshops worldwide. A Google search of leadership training brings up 299,000,000 results! But, do all these offerings point in the same direction. Certainly not. Depending on who you ask, there are many approaches to and definitions of leadership. But, my favorite at the moment considers leadership to be the ability to develop leaders, not followers. Why do I favour such a definition? Simply because there is a shallow pool of new leaders ready to take over from the huge percentage of senior mangers who are going to be retiring in the next 10 years – estimated to be about 40% of all managers.
So, what is the function of a manager? Making their employees confident and competent to perform at the highest level to meet the needs of stakeholders. This means spending less time taking care of the technical aspect of the organization (delegating these to those hired to take care of them) and focusing on employees. They should spend more time coaching and mentoring each employee. One of the most effective leaders that I have met in nearly 35 years of training leaders, told me that he spends 2 hours each month with each direct report (he has 6). I was incredulous and responded, “that was a huge amount of time.” And, why would he give so much of a precious resource (time) to each employee? His answer was simple: “Who they are, and what they do, matters to me!”
So, here is the challenge: do away with performance appraisals and spend time regularly with your most challenging and underemployed resource, your people. And engage them in finding new and better ways of performing their tasks. Give them challenging assignments. And, in these discussions, listen to them (sounding board), ask lots of open ended questions (facilitator) and give advice only sparingly and as a last resource (advisor).